Festival Fucking Burn It – Age on Stage


Between 9th and 17th October 2015, Dansmuseet  - a unique museum of movement in Stockholm hosted a dance festival Fucking Burn It -  Age on Stage. The author of the idea, its organizer and main star in one person was Charlotta Őfverholm, Swedish dancer and choreographer with an international reputation. The theme of the festival derives from her own experience of life and ageing in dance, and from the experience of the whole generation of dancers – they have been on stage for more than twenty-five years and still have stamina to keep going. 

One woman show (almost)

Performances presented during the festival were completely in the direction of Charlotta’s Compagnie Jus de la vie. First two evenings offered her latest work Lucky – one woman show created together with American choreographer Dwight Rhoden. This piece could be seen as a manifesto of the whole festival and its mission. It shows all sides of a multitalented performer: she dances, sings, acts, practices yoga, climbs up the rope… Collage of music from baroque aria to Frank Sinatra goes along the fragmental character of the performance. All the fragments, sometimes comic, sometimes serious, put together an image of a life of a performer, who has a lot behind her, with all the ups and downs, and who is not afraid to go on, dance, live and die. Charlotta’s suggestive deep voice guides us through the whole show: in the beginning, she counts from seven to one as if she was introducing us to a state of meditation. Instead of relax, we are soon facing her bursting energy. Phrases and questions are shot right into the audience. „Are you happy“, „What was the best moment in you life?“, „Are you in love?“ She wants the spectators to really express themselves, even to write it with a black marker on her body. One time she seems confident when talking, shouting, singing and dancing with remarkable strength and energy, next time she is desperately hanging up on the rope and asking people from the audience for help. The question of help is a recurrent theme: people always seek for help, for someone who could solve their problems – especially when it comes to dancers. Charlotta enumerates those who were trying to fix her: doctors, physiotherapists, gurus… But in the end we have to help ourselves, to be ourselves and find our own solutions. Despite all the personal references, Lucky is not only autobiographical. It makes you think about your own life, what you dream of or whether you are, too, lucky.

Next on schedule was a duet Antithesis, choreographed by Dwight Rhoden originally for Charlotta and Jan-Erik Wisktrom, who was replaced by Dragos Mihalcea this time. The main theme of the piece emerged from the nature of the dancers themseves, who are opposites on many levels. The most visible difference was their training and careers: Jan-Erik Wistrom is a classical ballet dancer, a former solist of the Royal Opera – as well as Dragos. And  Charlotta, a modern contemporary dancer, actor, singer, focusing on physical theatre. The different background was the biggest challenge for the choreographer, who eventually managed to find a good balance of both, so they could profit from each other. Their dance was full of complicated lifts and partner work, so it looked more „balletic“ than Charlotta’s usual style. On the other hand, the theme of opposites is developed in the deeper content of the duet, which seems to be a story of a very complicated relationship. The couple is constantly moving from loving harmony to discords. The music, again eclectic mixture of styles, emphasizes the character of each situation. Abstract contemporary music in the beginning accompanies the first „scene“, where the relation between man and woman seems to be unclear. The more the dance develops, the more we start to see the characters and relations clearly. They have moments of romance accompanied with a seductive jazz song, but those are soon destroyed by man’s instability. He does not to want to commit to her, she is desperately trying to get him back. And vice versa. The more dancers plunged into the story, more they were finding common ground in the area of emotions. The result of Antithesis was a special way of understanding.

Third piece on the festival programme was Charlotta’s own choreography again, this time in collaboration with Jordi Cortes: Pas de deux sans toi. This ambiguous title reflected a form of a little bit different duet. Two performers, Charlotta Ofverholm and Lindy Larsson, created a “burlesque compote” inspired by poems and installation by Louise Bourgeoise. The structure of this performance was quite similar to Lucky: spoken word mixed with very expressive dance, music and acrobatics on the rope, numerous questions (actual or rhetorical) directed to the public – which was unusually eager to reply. However, Pas de deux sans toi was somewhat darker, disturbing... even if it contained comical passages, these were more freezing then funny. Especially strong was the introductory “duet with the salad”, where the vegetable seemed to represent her vulnerability, which is aggressively attacked by dangerously looking character played by Lindy. In that sequence, his very good physical ability came up to light. It was also one of a few moments when the two danced together. In other parts of the show they had more distance from each other, Lindy accompanied Charlotta with his accordeon and sung. The piece was generally more about atmosphere and mood created in situation, but it truly made the performers shine – both of them so charismatic and strong. The end of it was double (the first ending was rejected by Charlotta herself: “I don’t like this end”) and yet it felt sudden or more precisely, premature. It felt like there was more to say and more to see. Maybe it was because we did not want it to end and we wanted to have more of these bizarre and fantastic personalities.

Dance films and a very lively seminar

The festival offered also other treats to the dance audience. During all week they could come to Dansmuseet and see a fine selection of dance films free of charge. On the program there were films Strange fish, Cost of living and Enter Achilles by DV8, Coup de Grace by Jordi Cortes or This is... by Farm in the Cave. However, one of the highlights of the festival was a premiere of a new film, a documentary about Charlotta Ofverholm entitled Force, created by Anders Larsson. The document was shot in Stockholm, Prague, New York and Paris, so we can follow Charlotta both in the creative process (rehearsing, performing, teaching) and in private life, which are necessarily interconnected. The camera takes us into her spotless white apartment in Stockholm, which is in such a perfect order that it might surprise many people who expect chaotic home of an artist. It is the contrary: Charlotta explains that she needs to be surrounded by order and neatness so her creativity has a place to develop. The director interviewed many of her colleagues, collaborators, students, friends and even her mother in order to pictures her personality from various perspectives. 

Charlotta is characterized as a person with incredible energy, a workaholic, a perfectionist... Her artistic style is described by many as “something else, different”, which was the reason for her creations being outstanding in both ways of the meaning. It was a great strength in places like New York, Germany or Prague, but made her standing apart from the “mainstream” (if there is such a thing in contemporary theatre) in her own country – as Lindy Larsson pointed out. He was also one of the very few Swedes actually featured in the film. The sadder part of the story related to the limitations which time brings into the life of a dancer. When someone works as hard and as much, physical problems come along sooner or later. Before her 50th birthday, when the pain was unbearable, she had to undergo a hip replacement. And quite incredibly, she was back on stage a few months later! That only shows what kind of strength and drive she has. The desire of moving and creating is unstoppable.

Very important part of the festival was seminar Age on stage, which looked at this burning issue in the dancers’ lives from theoretical perspective and also became a platform for discussion. Three speakers were invited: Fay Nelander, Irish/Swedish consultant to dancers artists, Paul Bronkhorst from Transition program for Dancers in the Netherlands and Madeline Ritter, arts manager and founder of a new dance company for mature performers Dance on. Many representatives from dance theatres, schools, but also foundations and of course the artists themselves, from Sweden and abroad, participated in the discussion. Topics like prejudices of the society and stereotypes of dance, importance and value of the mature dancers and issues of promotion and encouragement were discussed. (more about the seminar HERE)

 

Galaperformance

Cherry on the top of the whole festival was a Gala evening in the theatre of Rival hotel. Eleven mature dancers from various parts of the world accepted invitation and arrived to Stockholm. For some of them it meant a comeback to the stage after several years.
The evening was introduced by the host of the festival Charlotta Őfverholm, who performed a short excerpt from Pas de deux sans toi together with Lindy Larsson, who played accordion and sung Ochi Cernye while Charlotta tried to distract him in all possible ways. This comical introduction was followed by a balletic duet from Jakob (choreography Cristina Caprioli), performed by former soloist of Swedish Royal Opera Ballet Marie Lindqvist and Jan-Erik Wikström. It was a very technical and complex piece which showed that the former stars have certainly not lost their spark. Spanish dancer Jordi Cortes was much more minimalistic in his performance about solitude,, with a glass of wine in his hand. Another Spanish Amancio Gonzales danced his dynamic variation to Bach’s Aria from Matthaus Passion. From the Czech Republic, two representatives of the Farm in the Cave company, Hana Varadzinova and Eliska Vavrikova arrived. They showed an expressive fragment from the performance Waiting room, in which Charlotta danced few years ago.
Izraeli dancer Talia Paz (Batsheva Dance Company, Scapino, Cullberg Ballet) chose a choreography by 
Michael Getman that suited the Gala very much: Let me dance for you. This famous tune from A Chorus Line concluded her tragicomical solo dealing with the psycho- and physiological identity of a dancer. With a similar attitude another famous personality arrived on stage: Wendy Houstoun (DV8, dancer and choreographer) who would say yes to everything that surrounded her, and most of all to “keep going on” – and she was simply hilarious. 

Charlotta Őfverholm appeared on stage a few more times – with excerpts from the piece Kody zivota – the last forecast, Lucky and Antithesis with both ballet dancers Jan-Erik Wikström and Dragos Mihalcea. The last but one number introduced another well-known name: Desmond Richardson, former principal dancer of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Ballet Frankfurt or American Ballet Theatre. His variation from Hissy Fits (chor. Dwight Rhoden) was a showcase of pure beauty and technical excellence. Gala evening was concluded with Grand Finale: all those wonderful mature dancers appeared on stage together and danced a short choreography, accompanied with singing of Lindy Larsson, dressed almost like a drag queen. The atmosphere of that evening was really exceptional, since the audience seemed to be very engaged and very supportive to all of the performers - which would count for the festival as a whole, actually. Large and international audience participated in every show and the reactions were extremely positive and enthusiastic. It is a clear message that the audience wants more age on stage who fucking burns for it!


Written from festival Fucking Burn it – Age on stage, 9 – 17 October 2015, Dansmuseet

 

Lucky

Idea, concept , choreography, performer: Charlotta Öfverholm
Collaborator/ codirector: Dwight Rhoden
Light and stage: Tobias Hallgren
Video: Anders J. Larsson
Photo: Håkan Larsson
Music: Alvina Lanselle

Pas de deux sans toi

Choreographer/ director/concept: Charlotta Öfverholm
Co Director: Jordi Cortes
Music: Lauri Antila
Performers: Lindy Larsson and Charlotta Öfverholm
Costume: Sari Nuttunen
Light design: Tobias Hallgren

Antithesis

Choreography: Dwight Rhoden
Dancers: Dragos Mihalcea and Charlotta Öfverholm
Light: Tobias Hallgren

By: Petra Dotlačilová
 
 

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